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We cannot do better than begin this chapter by transcribing the opening words from chapter 1, book 3 of Calvin’s Institutes. “We are now to examine how we obtain the enjoyment of those blessings which the Father has conferred on His only begotten Son, not for His own private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And first it must be remarked, that as long as there is a separation between Christ and us, all that He suffered and performed for the salvation of mankind is useless and unavailing to us. To communicate what He received from the Father, He must, therefore, become ours, and dwell in us... The sum of all is this — that the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ efficaciously unites us to Himself.”
The Satisfaction of Christ rendered absolutely certain the salvation of those for whom He transacted, whose federal Head He was. Yet something further was necessary to make His people the actual participants of it: in the language of Acts 26:18 the Holy Spirit must be sent to “open their eyes, to turn from darkness to light, and the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith.” The beneficiaries of Christ’s mediatorial work enter this world in a state of guilt and depravity, and it is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to bring them into a state of life and liberty. The Persons of the Godhead have shared and distributed the whole work of the salvation of the elect amongst themselves unto three several parts: election is appropriated to the Father, redemption to the Son, the application of both election and redemption to the Spirit. Here again we reach a vitally important aspect of truth concerning which few today have any light.
We showed in chapter 10, conclusively we hope, that the efficacy of the Atonement has not been left an open question, that the full accomplishing of God’s design therein is not in any wise dependent upon man. What we would now press upon the reader is that the same God who ordained the end, also ordained all the means whereby that end is infallibly reached. The end God had before Him was the salvation of His people, their ultimate glorification, their being fitted to spend eternity in His holy presence. The means whereby that end was to be reached are the mediatorial work of Christ and the operations of the Holy Spirit. As the three Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity are undivided in their essence, so they are perfectly unanimous in their will and workings. Therefore those who have an interest in the good will of the Father, and the redemption of the Son, are likewise the subjects of the Spirit’s gracious influence.
It is a great mistake and a serious error to separate the present mission and ministry of the Holy Spirit from the Atonement of Christ, just as it is to contemplate the sacrifice of the Son apart from the purpose of the Father.
All of the Three Divine persons concurred in the terms and arrangements of the Everlasting Covenant. It is the special work of the Spirit to make effectual unto the souls of God’s elect the gracious purpose of the Father and the meritorious purchase of the Son. That which Christ did for His people, the Spirit stands pledged to make good in them. The Holy Spirit has been sent here to free those captives for whose liberty Christ paid the Father the ransom-price. This the Father promised His Son on condition of His performing the work assigned Him. It needs to be steadily borne in mind that “all the promises in Him [i.e. in Christ] are yea, and in him amen” ( 2 Corinthians 1:20), and therefore that the promises made to Christ’s seed, recorded in Scripture, are but the transcripts of the promises which God first made to their Head-cf. Titus 1:2! Let such passages as Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Joel 2:18 be read in that light. “Salvation is of the Lord” ( Jonah 2:9), entirely so, from beginning to end. It is God’s “great salvation,” in its origination, in its effectuation, in its application and in its consummation. Man contributes nothing to it whatsoever. All the Trinity are concerned and engaged in it. The Father is the Author of salvation from sin, Christ the Purchaser, the Spirit the Conveyor. It is the Father who begets the elect ( James 1:17,18); yet, they are declared to be the “seed” of Christ ( Isaiah 53:10), while they are “born” of the Spirit ( John 3:6). Though it has many aspects, and may be considered from various angles, nevertheless, it is one and the same salvation. It is the third aspect of it we are here contemplating, namely, the Satisfaction of Christ made efficacious by the infallible application thereof to God’s elect. To take this up in detail, let us note: 1. THE HOLY SPIRIT’S OFFICE What we wish to look at now is the particular relation which the Holy Spirit sustains to the economy of Redemption. In this He is subordinate to Christ the Mediator. There are a number of passages which clearly teach this. John the Baptist declared concerning Christ, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit” ( Mark 1:8). The communication of the Spirit was to be the distinguishing mark of the Savior’s ministry, in respect of which He would prove to be greater and mightier than the herald who was sent to prepare His way. In John 20:22 we find the risen Redeemer imparting this Divine gift to His apostles: “He breathed on, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” In Revelation 3:1 He is spoken of as “He that hath the seven Spirits of God.” These, and other passages which might be quoted, show that, in the administration of the Everlasting Covenant, the Spirit is now subject to Christ. Hence is He called, “The Spirit of Christ” ( Romans 8:9).
That the Holy Spirit should be subject to Christ, that the Savior should direct the Spirit’s operations, was promised Him in the Everlasting Covenant. In Acts 1:4 He is referred to as “The promise of the Father.”
Observe now when John the Baptist’s prediction was fulfilled and Christ baptized His people with the Holy Spirit, Peter explained the supernatural phenomena attending it, by saying, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” ( Acts 2:33)!
So too we read that believers are “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” ( Ephesians 1:13).
In the next place, we would point out how that Christ has actually purchased the gift of the Holy Spirit for His people, that His coming to the redeemed is one of the consequences or fruits of Christ’s Atonement. First, this is clearly implied in John 7:39: “But this spake He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not (given) because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Whether we understand the “glorified” as referring to Christ’s death ( John 13:31) or to His exaltation ( 1 Timothy 3:16), the coming of the Spirit is clearly a result thereof; by this we are to understand that the obedience of Christ was the meritorious cause of God’s sending His Spirit to indwell His people. Again; we may note that Christ’s communication of the Spirit to His apostles in John 20:22 was not till after His blood had been shed. Again, observe the double “that” in Galatians 3:14 following Christ’s being made a curse for us in verse 13; it is the relation of cause to effect. “But when the fullness of the time was come God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Here we have three things: the Son’s being sent forth to redeem God’s elect; this, that they might receive the adoption of sons; in consequence thereof the Spirit’s being sent into their hearts. The elect were adopted into God’s family before the foundation of the world ( Ephesians 1:4-5), hence they “are sons” ( Galatians 4:6), and this before they received the Spirit. The Spirit is not given to make them sons, for all the members of Christ were written in the book of life as sons and daughters before sin existed or time began. No, the Spirit was given to them because they are sons, and that, as the meritorious gift of Christ, purchased by His redemption.
To sum up this point. This choicest benefit we receive from God could not have come unless His justice had been fully satisfied, and His favor procured by a sufficient sacrifice. It was the death of Christ which appeased the anger of His holy Father, and opened those treasures of grace which by reason of our sins had otherwise been shut up from us.
Wondrously is this brought out in the Old Testament types: the Rock (Christ) must be smitten before the Water (the Spirit) could flow forth unto God’s people ( Exodus 17:6). The very design of the Spirit is to make manifest the fullness of God’s love to His people, and how could that be until God had demonstrated it at the Cross: Romans 5:8! The Spirit is here to declare the means of salvation, and they are the obedience, death and resurrection of Christ.
We are now to consider the teaching of Christ in His paschal discourse on this most sacred and blessed subject. “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name” ( John 14:26).
Christ keeps the treasury of Grace in His own hands. He is so choice of it that He would not entrust its administration to angels. Angels were employed to strengthen Him, both at His temptation and in His agony in Gethsemane: and they are ministering spirits for the heirs of salvation, but they have not the custody of that which brings them into heirship. Christ employs none but the Spirit to be His Attorney and Deputy in this world.
The Spirit is sent in His name: “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father” ( John 15:26). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show unto you” ( John 16:13,14).
There are three things in these verses which need to be particularly noted in this connection.
First , the Spirit would not speak of Himself, but only that which He should hear. He was to come as the Representative of Christ, and therefore He would reveal none other truth and communicate none other grace than what is in and by and from Christ Himself. Just as Christ declared, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things... I speak that which I have seen with my Father” ( John 8:28,38), so the Spirit would set His seal upon what Christ had taught. The Spirit was an equal participant in the councils of the Father and Son, being thoroughly cognizant of all that passed between them in the Everlasting Covenant. He has an infinite knowledge of their designs, for He “searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” ( 1 Corinthians 2:10); therefore does He make intercession for the saints “according to God” ( Romans 8:27).
Second , “He shall glorify me,” that is, the Lord Jesus. As Christ sought not His own glory, but ever had the glory of the Father before Him in all that He did, so the Spirit seeks not His own glory, but that of Him whom He now represents. This is the mission of the Holy Spirit, the design of His being sent here, the work He has come to do. “As the work of the Son was not His own work, but rather that of the Father who sent Him ( John 5:17), and in whose name He performed it ( Luke 2:49); so the work of the Spirit is not His own work, but rather the work of the Son who sent him, and in whose name He doth accomplish it” (John Owen). “He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” The things of Christ may be reduced to two heads: “grace and truth” ( John 1:17). From Christ the Spirit receives these; to His redeemed He effectually communicates grace and personally reveals the truth. Just as Christ declared “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” ( John 3:35), so hath Christ delivered all His interests into the Spirit’s hand. Two great things accrue to us by Christ: acquisition of redemption, application of redemption. The one is wrought by His death, the other by His resurrection life; the one was procured by Him immediately, the other is secured by the Spirit mediately. 2. THE SPIRIT REGENERATING “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” ( John 3:6).
Therefore it is to be made the recipient of “eternal life” for “God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in His Son” ( 1 John 5:11). And this is given to us on the ground of Christ’s Satisfaction. This is brought out plainly in John 3, though nearly all writers on that chapter have quite missed the point. There we find our Lord pressing upon Nicodemus the imperative necessity of the new birth: “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” The Pharisee was quite non-plussed, and asked, “How can these things be?” Christ’s reply is found in verses 14-16.
Now to say Christ here taught that regeneration is effected by faith in Him as “lifted up,” is to miss the main point in His words. The key to those verses lies in connecting the “must” of verse 14 with the “must” of verse 7.
To be born again is to be made partaker of a new life: it is to have “eternal life.” Now the very design of Christ’s being “lifted up” and of God’s love in “giving” Him was, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (v. 15). But no man could be born again, none could have eternal life, save as the result of a full satisfaction having been made to the claims of a holy and righteous God. Except the corn of wheat “fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone” ( John 12:24). The Holy Spirit could not regenerate except on the ground of the atoning death of Christ.
In verse 1 we read that believers are exempt from all condemnation because of their legal union with Christ. In verse 2 we are shown the fruit of this: the Holy Spirit makes it good to the soul in a vital way. The “law” of the Spirit refers both to His authority and power. But what we would call special attention to is that, in the economy of redemption, the authority and power of the Spirit is “of life in Christ Jesus.” In other words, the Spirit communicates to God’s elect the very life which is in the Mediator. “The gift of God is eternal life through [or “in”] Jesus Christ our Lord” ( Romans 6:23).
In Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead” ( Colossians 2:9) therefore the Spirit both resides “in” and is dispensed “by” Him! “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness” ( Romans 8:10).
Because of our union with Christ, the whole body of sin (cf. 6:6; 7:24) is legally “dead.” The “spirit” here refers to that which is born of the Spirit, and that is “life,” and it is a life “because of righteousness,” namely, the righteousness of Christ. The meritorious ground on which the Spirit imparts “life” to us is the Satisfaction of Christ. I live because Christ died and rose again for me. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” ( Titus 3:5-7).
Nothing could be plainer. Here, the ground on which the Spirit regenerates is clearly referred to as the Redeemer’s mediation. Many have wondered how it was possible for the Holy Spirit to take up His abode in a fallen and depraved creature. He could not do so but for one thing, namely, that the depraved creature has been legally cleansed by the precious blood of Christ. Beautifully was this foreshadowed in the Old Testament types. The “oil” (emblem of the Spirit: 1 John 2:20,27) was always placed upon the “blood”: see Leviticus 14:14-17.
Here Aaron foreshadowed our great High Priest receiving such a plenitude of that which spoke of the Holy Spirit, that all the members of His mystical body partake of the same. It is to this that Hebrews 1:9 refers, “Therefore God, Thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Here the Mediator is in view, as the words “Thy God” plainly show. Though He, by virtue of His humanity being taken up into union with the second person of the Godhead, has been anointed “above” His fellows, yet they as His “fellows” receive the same gracious and holy unction as He did. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” ( Hebrews 9:14).
This verse brings before us another aspect of the believer’s regeneration, namely, the purging of his conscience, so that he may worship God. It is the Spirit who removes from the conscience the intolerable load of guilt, by giving him to see that Christ bore it away from Him. But what we would here emphasize is that this gracious operation of the Spirit is attributed to, is based upon, or is one of the fruits of, the “blood of Christ.”
Now Christ, as Mediator, obtained for Himself a right to all the elect: “All mine are thine, and thine are mine” ( John 17:10). They are His “peculiar people” ( Titus 2:14). Thus, at God’s appointed hour Christ is entitled to claim each of them for Himself. This right He exercises. “When, according to the determinate counsel of God, the time of the gracious visitation of every one of the elect is come, He actually delivers them, as His property, by an outstretched arm. And why should He not, seeing He can easily effect it by the power of the Holy Spirit, turning and inclining their heart? Is it credible that He should suffer those who are His lawful right, to be, to remain, the slaves of Satan? Shall He suffer any of those to perish whom He purchased for His own possession by His precious blood? Christ Himself has taught us thus to reason: ‘Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice’ ( John 10:16). Because these sheep were of right His property, it therefore becomes Him actually to lay hold of them as His own, and bring them into His fold” (H. Witsius). This is done by the Spirit.
To sum up this point. The coming of the Spirit in regenerating power to God’s elect is both a Covenant-promise and an Atonement-purchase. The cause of the Spirit’s working is jointly from the Father and the Son. Only as this is maintained do we ascribe the glory which belongs to both by virtue of the Spirit’s operations. The Spirit works from the Father’s decree ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13), and the Son’s redemption; in other words, He is sent to effectuate what was determined upon in the Everlasting Covenant.
To all the Father elected, and to all for whom Christ died, the Spirit is given. “The Holy Spirit is the bond of union between us and Christ. We are united to Him because we have the same Spirit Christ had; there is the same Spirit in Head and members, and therefore He will work like effects in Him and in you. If the Head rise, the members will follow after, for His mystical body was appointed to be conformed to their Head: Romans 8:29.” (T. Manton, 1660). 3. FAITH IMPARTED That faith is, in some sense, essential unto salvation, it would, with an open Bible before us, be worse than idle to deny. But the important question is, Did Christ purchase the gracious operations of the Spirit and all His fruits for those for whom He died? Or, did He effect by His sacrifice nothing more than the removal of legal impediments out of the way of salvation, leaving them to provide their own faith and repentance? That Christ must have purchased these should be clear from the fact that, in their natural condition, the elect have no power to furnish any spiritual graces. It has been rightly pointed out that, “The Scriptures everywhere ascribe the whole ground and cause of our salvation to Christ. But if the differentiating grace which distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever is to be attributed to any cause external to Christ’s mediation, then that cause, and not His redemption, is the real cause of salvation” (A. A. Hodge).
That faith is necessary in order to salvation is clear from such verses as Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16, etc. God never gives the one without the other, therefore both are inseparably connected in His eternal purpose thereunto: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit [the new birth] and belief of the truth” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Yet it is a mistake to say that faith is a “condition” of salvation in the sense of my paying for an article is the condition of obtaining the same. Every condition to the right of salvation has been fulfilled for us by Christ. Faith is rather the connection between the soul and God’s salvation in Christ, and that connection is made by the Holy Spirit. The various steps in the outworking of God’s eternal purpose are set forth in Romans 8:29,30.
There are two chief errors in connection with saving faith. The first is that fallen man is the author of it, that it is the product of the creature’s will.
This is a horrible delusion which must be firmly withstood. A dead man cannot believe. Believing in Christ in a spiritual and saving way is the result and fruit of “life” communicated to the heart. Christ declared that “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” ( John 6:44): this is accomplished in and by the Spirit’s regeneration. It should be noted that John 1:12 is explained in 1:13, as that John 3:15,16 are preceded by John 3:6,7. Those who are born again believe. Those who believe have been born again: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God” ( 1 John 5:1 R. V.).
The second error is in separating the Spirit’s communication of faith from the merits of Christ’s sacrifice. “Why did we at first believe? Why do we still exercise that faith and walk by it? Only because it was covenanted for on our behalf when Christ undertook to die for us. It should help us to pray better, ‘Lord, increase our faith’ when we remember at what a cost that faith was procured for us. And certainly this alone will keep us from one of the subtlest of all Satan’s snares, pride of faith.... How easy it is to live proudly on faith! Faith will do as well as works for Satan’s purpose of leading us to give to man the glory that is Christ’s” (From Papers of the Sovereign Grace Union Conference, 1923).
In order that Christ may have all the glory even for our believing in Him, it is most necessary to recognize that faith is not only God’s gift, Ephesians 2:8,9 (and therefore while we are saved “through” faith, we are not saved for faith), and that this faith is “of the operation of God” ( Colossians 2:12), i.e. of the Spirit’s working, but also that the Spirit imparts it on the ground of Christ’s redemption, i.e. that Christ merited it for us. It is because Christ appeased God’s wrath and removed the obstacles from the outflow of His mercy toward us, that the Spirit is free to work in us. This is clearly stated in 2 Peter 1:1, “To them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (R. V.).
God has treasured up all the store of grace and gifts in Christ, and it is out of His “fullness” the Spirit takes ( John 16:14) and we “receive” ( John 1:16). Only as this is held fast is the righteousness of Christ exalted and magnified.
In Ephesians 1:3 we are told that God “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ,” and not the least of these is faith! In Romans 8:32 the question is asked, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Yes, “with” Christ, God freely bestows on us the Spirit, faith, repentance and all that is needed for time and eternity. In Philippians 1:29 we read, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”
In 1 Peter 1:3 it is said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us.” It is as “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” that God begets us!
Salvation and all the blessings accompanying it were purposed, promised and purchased long before writer and reader first saw the light of day. Those for whom Christ died have an indefeasible right to what He bought for them, and that, long before they come into actual possession of the same. If it be asked, This being so, why do not the elect enter upon the enjoyment thereof as soon as they are born into this world? The answer is, because God has reserved to Himself the right and liberty to discharge the debtor when and as He pleases. As in the parable: some are called at the first hour, some at the third, sixth, ninth, and some at the eleventh (Matthew 20). 4. REPENTANCE GIVEN “Him hath God exalted with His right hand a Prince and a Savior for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” ( Acts 5:31).
Impenitence and unbelief are the thick clouds which dissolve under the blessed beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
Every spiritual gift and blessing we receive argues or presupposes the vicarious work of Christ. The grace of God is “given you by Jesus Christ” ( 1 Corinthians 1:4). It is by His having given Himself for our sins that we are delivered from “this present evil world” ( Galatians 1:4). It is “in him also we have obtained an inheritance” ( Ephesians 1:11). Christ died to procure for us a subjective as well as an objective sanctification, which is accomplished by His Spirit’s indwelling us: Titus 2:14; Ephesians 5:26,27. It is because He has washed us from our sins in His own blood that “He hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” ( Revelation 1:5,6).
Thus, all the graces of the Christian character and all the virtues of the Christian life which are wrought in us by the agency of the Holy Spirit, are imparted through Christ and received out of His meritorious fullness. Then, well may we join the saints in heaven in saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” ( Revelation 5:12).